YOUNG AND TOUGH: THE NEW START-UPPERS

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What do Cristina, Michele, Joubin and Lorenzo have in common? They don’t sleep as much as they would like.

Nor do they hang around with their friends, enjoying the pleasure of a stroll in the park or a beer at the pub, as much as their young age would seem to warrant. The reason for this apparent injustice is referred to – very fashionably – as the start-up. Their idea, their passion, their job, their future. The word might seem a little overused, but in London has a real significance. “Usually a start-up is simply an idea, innovative and often in the technological field”, says Cristina Bonaccurso, CEO and founder of Ringpay. “It generally involves a small group of people with no money. Finances for these projects are to be found among those who cultivate and nourish the ideas of others”.

Cristina didn’t even have the idea, but she was able to recognise one. “I was in Berlin for a hackathon. I saw a guy wandering around with his laptop, who told me he had developed an app to allow payments from a smartphone. He showed me a demo—it looked fantastic, and it hooked me. That very evening we started a partnership: he would be the nerd, the developer, I would take care of the communication. Someone suggested we show the app to Eric Van der Kleij, boss of London Tech-City”. “We wrote an email, he replied and gave us an appointment. He was immediately impressed by the demo. We talked while he took notes on his iPad. Van der Kleij taking notes while I was speaking! I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

There was no need for a second meeting. At the end of the conversation the two young Italian nerds had convinced the big boss. “He liked the idea, no doubt,” Cristina adds. “But above all he liked the passion, the attitude, which is what the angels want”.

 

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“But above all he liked the passion, the attitude, which is what the angels want”.

 

The following day Cristina was installed in her office at the 39th floor at Canary Wharf, with a 360­º view over London. She couldn’t believe her luck. Since then I’ve been here day and night, more or less. But it’s wonderful: I have contacts, help and support. We do not know yet if our idea is going to work, but here they support ideas with potential. And when your company is ready, they put you in contact with investors. What really matters is proactivity. Nobody checks up on you, and if you are not strong enough, if you are not able to leave your comfort-zone, you’ll never make it”. Ringpay is about to be launched as a beta-test. If it arrives on the market, paying will be a one-to-one issue; no need for a till, a credit card, cash. Payments will take few seconds to go through. No waiting, no card, no queues. Ringpay is not live yet, but it already has a little sister, Charing, which collects donations for charities through smartphones. Two partners, two start-ups, in a matter of months. Something similar happened with Netberg, founded by brothers Michele and Claudio, together with Joubin Nouri, Italian with Iranian origins, and Lorenzo Rando.

“The future? “We want to corner 20% of the market in the next five years”.

 “Joubin is the creative mind”, Michele says. “He think about new ventures while he’s waiting for the tube, on a plane, while he cooks… His parents, in Turin, have a pharmacy and he made a website for them, but every time they want to make a little change they had to ask for help. So he developed an online platform for medium-small companies, easy to set up and modify. Something like Facebook, you know? A kind of an online shop, easy and manageable”. Michele and Joubin studied together at ESCP Europe and became business partners. Michele resigned from his job to fully immerse himself in the start-up, which has already gained 230 customers in a few months. A group of people coming from all over Europe, all in their 20s, has come to London for a three-to-six month internship at Netberg, and now sits every day at Michele’s dinner table working on adjustments. The future? “We want to corner 20% of the market in the next five years”. And chances are, they really will.